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Just Minutes After The Eruption Screams Of Pain Rang Out

WARNING: GRAPHIC DETAILS.

David Schade, an American tourist who witnessed the eruption from a boat just off the coast of White Island told 10 News First how he noticed fish jumping out of the water just minutes before the volcano exploded.

"About a minute or two after that we heard screams of 'holy cow' and then we saw the plume of smoke coming out of the crater ... it was getting larger and larger and the whole island was engulfed. It was so close to our boat," Schade said.

He and his family had been on the island just minutes before the eruption, having just finished their tour and returned to the boat.

David's son posted a video of their visit to the crater to Twitter. Now an eerie reminder of the eruption that followed.

He also described the horror injuries people on the island sustained. He said most people who were put on his boat were calling out in pain and were badly injured.

"When they were bringing them on the only thing we heard was screams," Schade said.

"They were head to toe ash. They were burnt head to toe majority of the people. Some weren't as bad as others but the majority were in extremely bad shape."

David Schade witnessed the explosion. Image: 10 News First.

A helicopter pilot who saved 12 people from White Island in New Zealand after the volcano eruption has revealed the horrific scale of injuries victims experienced.

Mark Law, 48, flew to the Island with a colleague after he heard news of the eruption. The tour company boss, who has been operating trips to the Island for 10 years, spent nearly an hour on the Island searching and rescuing victims as an almighty cloud of smoke and ash mushroomed in the sky above them.

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Both men landed in the centre of the Island and then raced 60 metres into volcano's crater.

“We found people dead, dying and alive but in various states of unconsciousness," Law told The Guardian.

“The burns were horrific. A lot of the people could not talk. It was pretty quiet. The only real words were things like, ‘help’. They were covered in ash and dust.”

Rescues trying to save victims. Image: AAP/ Micheal Schade.

Law and his colleague lifted five people each into their helicopters, and another two were put into a third aircraft.

Six people have been confirmed dead in the disaster and a further eight are assumed to have died on the island. Their bodies are yet to be recovered by authorities. Thirty-one people have been taken to hospitals across New Zealand, with most victims being treated for serious burns.

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Law, who served in African war zones, said the rescue was incredibly challenging.

"It felt like running through talcum powder,” he said. “It was very hard to breathe and without a gas mask we were gasping for air."

An image provided by US tourist Michael Schade, taken as the volcano erupted. Image: Supplied

He told The Guardian he was motivated to fly to the island and carry out the rescue because he feared emergency services would not make it in time.

“We heard they were not coming to the island," Law said.

"I’d rather break a few rules and save some lives than sit here wondering what we could have done.”

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Why Were Tourists Allowed On White Island?

The official death toll remains at six, and eight people are still missing, presumed to have died in Monday's volcanic eruption at Whakaari/White Island.

Since the eruption, New Zealand has launched a criminal investigation into the deaths of the six people.

All first responders and tourists have been offered councelling by authorities.

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au